BINGO Ohio Style

My grandmother loved playing Bingo.  While spending time with her in Sturgis, Kentucky, we played games and worked puzzles to pass the time in that small town that offered little else.  We loved playing Caroms, the game where one flicks plastic rings into netted corner cups – a poor man’s billiards, if you will.  We played Monopoly, Parcheesi and Chinese Checkers.  But, her favorite game of all was Bingo. Bingo was always on the game playing agenda and I remember the cardboard box that contained all the Bingo supplies including the little red squares that my brother and I would tear apart for use in covering the called numbers.  There was no spinning cylinder or round, wooden balls with numbers.  All we had were little round cardboard discs with the Bingo numbers that we would shake from a plastic cup.  We never played for prizes or money (none of us, including my grandmother, had any) and we only played two games: straight lines (including diagonal) and cover-all.   Those were the days.

They play Bingo here in Cambridge, Ohio.  They also play Bingo over in Senecaville, both at the Senior Center and at the Fire Station.  They play Bingo in Coshocton, Marrieta, Lore City, Chillicothe, Athens, Niles, Ironton, Hubbard, Campbell, Canfield, Cortland, Belpre, Wellston, St. Clairsville and Newton Falls.  In fact, people play Bingo as far south as Meigs County in Pomeroy, not to mention Ashtbula, Hocking, Gallia and Scioto and those are just some of the places here in southeast Ohio.  To put it in layman terms, these are the Bingo playingest bunch of Buckeyes Lisa and I ever knew existed.

And so, when in Rome do as the Roman do.  Or, I should say, when in Ohio do what every living, breathing, denture wearing, walker pushing, blue haired, no haired, one-armed, two armed, one-legged, two-legged, no legged, dobber toting human being in Ohio is doing – play Bingo.  Lisa started going to a Bingo game with a friend here in our campground and has made the rounds to several others in the area.  Years ago, she would take her beloved grandmother to Bingo when she was still alive in Owensboro and has a soft place in her soul for Bingo and the Bingo players, who in all honesty, are really the salt of the earth. Many remind her of her grandmother and their kindness to “out of towners” like her and myself is welcomed.  Yes!  I have been hooked into playing Bingo as well, making me an official “Bingo playing, backsliding Baptist Deacon” fully expecting to be stripped of all the benefits of being a Baptist deacon including giving up my preferred parking pass and all the grape juice and stale crackers a man can consume.  Oh well! It has been a good ride.

Bingo here in Ohio ain’t nothing like your grandmother’s Bingo. Trust me!  I go to a Bingo game with Lisa in what is an old elementary school just up the road from our campground here in Cambridge.  The gymnasium has been permanently transformed into a high-tech Bingo palace complete with overhead monitors, electronic scoreboard, credit card capabilities and a full service concession stand.  This Bingo is no joke!  This was so beyond me that Lisa, who had been attending for a few weeks, had to help me purchase my packet of score sheets. I was told to tell the lady taking money that I wanted “two packs and a pig”.

“Did you say, a pig?”, I asked my sweet wife.

“Yes!”, she replied.  And so I turned and said to the lady, “I need two pigs in a poke.”

“No!” Lisa shouted. “You want two packs and a pig.”

Got it!  “I want two packs and pig.  What’s a pig?”

“It is a funny, fat animal that provides us with bacon and sausage.”  Some smart ass behind me replied.

Lisa, completely exasperated, told me to just take my pack and pig and go sit down.  A “pig” in Ohio Bingo parlance is actually a little sheet of paper that allows you to win extra money if you Bingo on certain numbers, which neither of us have ever done but, we keep buying them.  I think it really is a “pig in a poke” but, I’m not about to say that out loud.  I learned that some of the people at Bingo get very sensitive about things when it comes to Bingo.  Lisa informed me that I needed to sit in a certain seat so as not to steal a seat from someone.  One little old lady she encountered previously had threatened to kick another little, old lady’s ass because she stole the seat of one of her little old lady friends.  Geez! I was not only about to lose my ass – I was about to get it kicked as well.

Lisa got all my packets in order and finally after about an hour of preliminary pull tab Bingo (separate purchases of business card sized cards that go for a buck each) the official Bingo game began.  A ball appeared in the monitor overhead and I started scanning the twelve Bingo games on the sheets in front of me.  I managed to “dab” through the first three when I heard the next number called.  Frantically, I dabbed the second number thinking I would catch up and finish the first before number three was called.  Wrong!  Now I’m two numbers behind and my arms pits are sweating.  Lisa sees I’m in trouble and reaches across the table to assist.  Other numbers are being called from other voices and my panic level increases.  I started dabbing the wrong numbers before I realize that these are pull tab numbers being called and I don’t have any pull tabs.  I look around and realize I am one of the youngest people in the room and I can’t keep up.  I spot a lady across the room who looks like she is about one hundred and six dabbing with both hands while eating a hot dog and now I’m not only feeling stressed out but, also, a little depressed.

I hear someone finally declare “Bingo” and am relieved I can take a little break before the next game.  Now I know what to listen for and the games start getting a little easier to play.  Understanding the games took a little longer and learning what a “Kite”, “Postage Stamp”, “Big Diamond”, “Wild Ball”, and all the other strange games meant made me wish I was back in Sturgis.  As I said, Bingo here in Ohio is no joke!

The truth be told we have had fun playing Bingo here during this long, dreary winter and the no smoking policy in public buildings here in Ohio is one that we absolutely love.  Besides, we have made some really good friends and hanging out with good people is worth every penny in our estimation.

Even if I still don’t understand what a “pig” is.

BINGO!  Love, Steve and Lisa